Com­puter pass­words: the next gen­er­a­tion

Why rely on let­ters and num­bers? You could be im­prov­ing your pass­words – or even do­ing away with them


Thanks to the ever-present dan­gers posed by data leaks and com­pro­mised ac­counts, us­ing a se­cure pass­word is more im­por­tant than ever be­fore. There are a host of tech­niques out there that are use­ful for creat­ing your own su­per­se­cure codes, but noth­ing clear: on the one hand, peo­ple will tell you to avoid dic­tio­nary words; and on the other you’ll be told to string a num­ber of plain English words to­gether for a long pass­word you’ll be able to re­mem­ber. Both have their ad­van­tages, but if your pass­word makes it out into the wild they’ll be equally easy to break.

We do know this: us­ing unique pass­words for each site you visit is im­per­a­tive, which is where pass­word man­agers like LastPass or Dash­lane come in. They’ll both gen­er­ate long, com­plex pass­words and in­put them for you – you don’t even need to know what the pass­word is – keep­ing the

Us­ing a se­cure pass­word is more im­por­tant than ever be­fore

whole lot safe be­hind a sin­gle mas­ter pass­word. Where it’s of­fered, you should also use two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion (2FA), which means any pass­word you en­ter will have to be matched with a unique code de­liv­ered to you on de­mand ei­ther by an app or a text mes­sage.

Look­ing to dial it up an­other notch? With a phys­i­cal se­cu­rity key, like Google’s new Ti­tan or one of Yu­biKey’s var­i­ous mod­els, you can add an ad­di­tional block on your ac­counts when us­ing de­vices and sites that sup­port it. You will still need to in­put your pass­word, but with­out that unique key plugged into your USB port your ac­count will be locked out, mean­ing you’re pro­tected from even the most egre­gious se­cu­rity leak. A £50-ish in­vest­ment in a se­cu­rity key means it’s not the cheapest way to put up walls, and they’re not com­pat­i­ble with ev­ery type of ac­count quite yet, but what price do you put on your se­cu­rity?

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